Exploring Climate Justice – a human rights based approach – an excellent resource for KS3 with lesson ideas. Produced in Scotland but applicable to all nations

Changing the World with Women and Girls – Actionaid looking at Climate Justice

Vanessa Nakate speaks at COP26  –

Sussex Climate Justice Group discuss climate justice –


What is Climate Justice?

Daisy Simmons ( defines climate justice in the following way:

Climate change, an inherently social issue, can upset anyone’s daily life in countless ways. But not all climate impacts are created equal, or distributed equally. From extreme weather to rising sea levels, the effects of climate change often have disproportionate effects on historically marginalized or underserved communities.

“Climate justice” is a term, and more than that a movement, that acknowledges climate change can have differing social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on underprivileged populations. Advocates for climate justice are striving to have these inequities addressed head-on through long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The following are key factors to consider in thinking about climate justice:

1) Climate justice begins with recognizing key groups are differently affected by climate change.

From the United Nations and the IPCC to the NAACP, many organizations are connecting the dots between civil rights and climate change.

As a UN blog describes it: “The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations.”

“Climate change is happening now and to all of us. No country or community is immune,” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit.”

Generally, many victims of climate change also have disproportionately low responsibility for causing the emissions responsible for climate change in the first place – particularly youth or people of any age living in developing countries that produce fewer emissions per capita than is the case in the major polluting countries.

Climate impacts can exacerbate inequitable social conditions.

  • Low-income communities, people of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities, older or very young people, women – all can be more susceptible to risks posed by climate impacts like raging storms and floods, increasing wildfire, severe heat, poor air quality, access to food and water, and disappearing shorelines.
  • Here are a few examples of how some communities may be more affected by these impacts than others – and may have fewer resources to handle those impacts, too:
  • Communities of colour are often more at risk from air pollution, according to both the NAACP, the American Lung Association, and countless research papers.
  • Seniors, people with disabilities, and people with chronic illnesses may have a harder time living through periods of severe heat, or being able to quickly and safely evacuate from major storms or fire.
  • People with limited income may live in subsidized housing, which too often is located in a flood plain. Their housing options may also have inadequate insulation, mold problems, or air conditioning to effectively combat severe heat or cope with strong storms. Economically challenged people may also be hard-pressed to afford flood or fire insurance, rebuild homes, or pay for steep medical bills after catastrophe strikes.
  • Language barriers can make it difficult for immigrant communities to get early information about incoming storms or weather disasters or wildfires, or to communicate effectively with first responders in the midst of an evacuation order.
  • Some indigenous communities are already seeing their homes and livelihoods lost to rising sea levels or drought.
  • Prolonged drought and flooding can affect food supply or distribution, making it harder for people to access affordable, healthy food.
    Today’s youth and future generations will experience more profound impacts of climate change as it worsens over time, from direct adverse health impacts to the financial implications of needing to shore-up infrastructure and other adaptation and mitigation need

And what can we do achieve it?


The Unicef Office for Global Insight and Policy outlines the following key steps which governments, organisations and local communities must take in order to address climate justice

Linking human rights with development and climate action

Development cannot be delinked from climate action and vice versa. Throughout, a human rights base approach is necessary. For example, with the rapid pace of urbanization, a rights-based approach is crucial for addressing water, sanitation and health, challenges which are exacerbated by climate change in the formalizing of informal settlements.

Having a people-centered approach to climate action

This entails ensuring representation, inclusion, and protection of the rights of those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Solutions must promote equity, assure access to basic resources, and ensure that young people can live, learn, play and work in healthy and clean environments.

Understanding that not everyone has contributed to climate change in the same way

While everyone must do their part to address climate change, the burden should not be borne by those that have contributed the least. The world’s richest 10% are responsible for 50% of GHG emissions and the poorest 50% are only responsible for 10% despite population and energy consumption increasing.

Combatting social injustice, gender injustice, economic injustice, intergenerational injustice and environmental injustice

The intersectionality of these challenges must be acknowledged in order to address them holistically. For example, some climate projects inadvertently create climate injustices when local communities are displaced for a conservation or renewable energy initiative.

Requires a systems transformation

The climate crisis is the result of a system which prioritizes profit over sustainability. As such, solutions will require a transformative systems lens and approach. Approaches that address the unequal burdens in certain communities and which realigns the economy with natural systems. The new green learning agenda proposes such an approach for an education system that develops and nurtures sustainable mindsets, as well as green skills in order to achieve this transformation.


What do young people want?


Participation – a seat at the table

Representation is crucial for getting concerns heard and addressed. Youth and civil society need to be given a seat at the decision-making table so that those asking for climate justice can influence decisions around climate policies and programming, including climate finance flows. Unfortunately, decision making processes are currently dominated by northern and corporate interests. Youth representation, when included, is perceived by young people to be tokenistic and used as a public relations exercise, and young people’s voices are not considered and taken into account when decisions are made.

While representation at official conferences is important, climate talks are not the only forums to influence decisions and processes related to climate (in)action. Other avenues for participation may be even more powerful, for example, influencing international trade agreements. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has far more legally binding power over countries than the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), as they affect and potentially often prevent the right of countries to pursue low carbon development, through their trade agreements.


Decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods

Marginalized and poor communities are disproportionately exposed to and affected by climate change impacts, but often face structural barriers to participating in the fight for climate justice. When people are unable to meet their basic needs for income, food and other necessities, it is difficult to get involved in climate action. Therefore, it is important to focus on education, livelihood and employment opportunities while working with marginalized and poor communities and these need to be tackled at the policy level